Vending machines, long the home of candy and sodas, are changing rapidly. Technology is now allowing for credit- and debit-card enabled machines to offer fresh fruit, yogurt, and other such healthy alternatives instead of just the sugarfests of old.
So consumers across the land can take a gander at this new generation of vending machines, the National Automatic Merchandising Association is taking 20 newfangled machines to six major cities to show ‘em off, according to Crain’s New York Business.
NAMA's "The Gratitude Tour" started in Boston, stopped off in New York and is due to finish up its travels in Madison, WI, today. Along the way, it also stopped in Atlanta; Austin, TX; Phoenix, and Minneapolis.
The idea behind the mobile branding campaign, according to the organization’s website, is to hit cities that have large university and Gen-Y populations.
“Machines will be filled with products that Gen Y consumers (and others) enjoy,” the site notes. “In addition, the Tour events will feature live music, product giveaways and social media stations, where consumers can enter NAMA’s Facebook contest.”
The contest, dubbed "Vend.Love.Win.," gives entrants the opportunity to win money for themselves or their favorite local charity
As we alerted via a reader comment, "All users have to do is upload a creative photo or video that includes their favorite vending machine or vended product, along with a short description explaining why they love it. On the last day of each month, the top 20 entries with the most votes will each win $200 for a charity of their choice or a $200 Visa gift card for themselves to spend as they wish. We’re also giving away a $5,000 annual prize for the absolute BEST entry before March 30, 2012. The entry with the most votes overall will win the grand prize."
One of the cooler features of some of the futuristic machines on NAMA's mobile tour is allowing consumers to see the product from all angles before purchasing, as well as that some offer complete meals.
NAMA claims vending machines are a $40 billion business annually and that sales increased every year till 2008, Crain notes. “We think this year it's on the uptick again,” said Dan Matthews, executive vice president of NAMA, to Crain's.
Another plus to the tour is that consumers can see how cool the new machines are and help get rid of an image that must drive NAMA execs insane every time they come across it in popular culture: the broken vending machine. “There are some old stereotypes out there about banging on a machine when something isn't dispensed,” Matthews said.
[image of Apple vending machine via Zoom Systems]